Murder convict released after 44 years despite 100-200-year sentence

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EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WCIA) — A man who helped murder an Illinois State Trooper 44 years ago is now walking free. The Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted on it yesterday.

James Taylor was arrested in 1976 for holding down Illinois State Trooper Layton Davis while Aaron Hyche shot and killed him. Taylor’s release was approved. Hyche’s was not.

Taylor was originally sentenced to 100-200 years, so you can imagine what him getting out early feels like to Davis’ family. That’s why they pleaded to the board to not release him, but they’re afraid that request fell on deaf ears.

“We never thought they would get released from prison because of their actions,” said his grandson Kurt Davis. Kurt’s also the Effingham Police Deputy Chief.

Layton would have been 95 if he were alive today. He was murdered during a traffic stop on I-57 near Effingham in 1976. That section of the interstate is now named in his honor, and a memorial to him stands on a corner downtown, commemorating his 19 years with state police. The Illinois State Prisoner Review Board voted 8 to 5 in favor of Taylor’s release.

“I’ll be honest, it was pretty heartbreaking,” said Kurt. “Our family still lives with the consequences of what happened. I didn’t get to meet my grandfather.”

Sharon Davis is married to one of Layton’s sons. She married Layton’s son only months before Layton was killed. “He was a very loving man. Very supportive of his family, do anything for you,” she said. “We do have to accept the ruling that the board made. Are we happy with it? No.”

“They ended his (Taylor’s) suffering, and he was free to walk. But my grandfather is not free to walk. My family is not free to walk. It’s not gone. We live with this every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, every birthday, every new child born in our family. It’s a never ending sentence for us,” said Kurt.

The board looked at factors like good behavior and the fact that Taylor wasn’t the one who fired the deadly shots. Hyche’s freedom will be up for the board’s approval again next year. Several others were involved in the traffic stop, including a woman who was Hyche and Taylor kidnapped in their vehicle. Kurt says she still suffers from PTSD from that incident.

Taylor was released today, but he remains under state supervision and is currently under orders to be placed on electronic monitoring. He is also prohibited from visiting Effingham County as a condition of his parole release.

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